Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed was left to thank Imad Wasim after the all-rounder kept the side’s hopes of qualifying for the 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final alive with a vital knock.
The Men in Green were struggling at 156-6 in their chase of 228 against Afghanistan before they emerged victorious by three wickets in a nail-biter of a clash at Headingley in Leeds.
It was Imad who turned match-winner for Pakistan with the bat with the southpaw’s unbeaten 49-run knock taking the side across the finish line with just two balls to spare.
The win propelled Sarfraz’s men to fourth spot in the table above England although the hosts can reclaim that position if they beat India at Edgbaston on Sunday.
“It is a great win for us,” Sarfraz said after his side’s narrow win.
“It was not an easy pitch to bat on, but credit goes to Imad – the way he batted, the way he handled pressure, hats off to him,” he added.
Pakistan looked to be down and out in the run-chase with Afghanistan’s fearsome spin attack tightening the screws before an expensive 46th over by Gulbadin Naib changed the tide of the game.
Spinners had been on top of the Pakistan batsman up to that stage and the Afghan skipper’s decision to bring himself on with the ball turned out to be a poor one with his over going for 18 runs.
Man-of-the-match Imad admitted as much after the game as he revealed his struggles against spin.
“When I went in, Rashid Khan was bowling brilliantly. I couldn’t pick him to be honest,” said Imad.
“But we knew that if we play 50 overs, we’ll win. Gulbadin was the only bowler to be targetted because the wicket was turning square.”
The Afghan skipper, meanwhile, pointed fingers at his team’s batsmen after what was the eighth straight loss in the tournament for the minnows.
“I said at the start of the tournament 30-40 (runs from a batsman) is not enough, you need 60 to 70 or 100, then you can put a good total,” he said.
“But each batsman, including me, should go one step forward. We are learning a lot, so hopefully we’ll do well in the future.”
With the onus now on England to prove their semi-final credentials, Pakistan’s players will have their eyes trained at Edgbaston on Sunday when the hosts take on India.
While an India win would be ideal for Pakistan, skipper Sarfraz is refusing to choose favourites. “Obviously we’ll all watch, hopefully the better team will win,” the Pakistan skipper said to conclude.
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